Five Questions to Ask as You Discipline Your Teenager

When I was growing up and did something I knew that I should not do, my parents would spank me. My dad had an interesting spanking technique. I can remember him getting mad, deciding he was going to spank me, and then he’d say, “Douglas, go get me something to hit you with.”

Today, this sounds funny. Back then, it sounded completely rational.

I eventually learned that the longer I took to get something for him to hit me with, the more he would cool off and the easier the spanking would be. Once I was tempted to return with a pillow, but it didn’t seem like he would think it was funny.

Spanking a younger child may thwart inappropriate behavior, but there can be a high cost connected to it–emotionally, relationally, and physically. And when kids become teenagers, then what is the parent going to do (especially if the teenager is now bigger than the parent)?

Understand that discipline is unique to each situation. There’s no one-way to handle each disciplinary situation, but just smacking a kid when he or she messes up may make a parent feel better for awhile, but there has to be a better, more effective method.

There is no one way to discipline children, but some ways are better than others.

Here are five questions Cathy and I tried to use when we had to discipline our teenagers:

1. What did you do?
2. Why was that behavior wrong?
3. How could you have handled it better?
4. Next time, what do you think you could do?
5. Should you repeat the wrong behavior, what would be a fair and natural consequence?

These questions gave us some cool down time and also helped us teach our kids to think about their actions. Sure, there were many times when it would have been a lot easier to simply scream at them, smack them, or send them to their bedrooms.

But healthy parenting requires parents to use wisdom, discernment, confidence, and often times, patience. So remind yourself over and over again of the goal of discipline: to teach teenagers responsibility for their own behavior. Then, when the moment for discipline arises, do your best to help both you and your teen to reach the goal.

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Doug Fields

Doug Fields is the senior director of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of leaders, teenagers and parents each year. He’s also the author/co-author of 50+ books including: Parenting in a Screen Saturated Culture; Intentional Parenting; 7 Ways to be Her Hero – the One Your Wife Has Been Waiting For; and To Have and To Hold. In addition to Doug’s speaking and writing, he is also the co-founder of and the youth pastor at Mariners Church. Doug has been married for more than 35 years to his wonderful wife Cathy, and they live near their 3 married children and 3 grandchildren in Southern California.

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